Let’s go take up some space on that masters start list

Slalom Invites Finalized: Are the Best Skiers Truly Represented at the Masters?


Slalom invites finalized: Are the best skiers truly represented at the Masters?

Let’s go take up some space on that masters start list

Image: @pato.font

By Jack Burden

What makes the best skier in the world? Is it talent, skill, and record-setting scores? Or is it the ability to perform under pressure, to excel regardless of the lake or conditions, and to beat the rest of the field when it counts?

If you were fortunate enough to be on the banks of Sunset Lakes yesterday, you were treated to an exhilarating day of slalom as many of the world’s best skiers vied for qualification into the 2024 Masters Waterski and Wakeboard Tournament.

By the end of the day, the Canadian duo of Stephen Neveu and Cole McCormick had punched their tickets. However, an eight-way tie for the last spot forced another intense runoff. It was the European contingent of Sacha Descuns and Adam Sedlmajer that led the pack, each securing 3@10.25m (41’ off). In a second runoff, former world overall champion Sedlmajer emerged victorious to clinch the final spot.

The Masters has long billed itself as the world’s “most prestigious watersports tournament,” where “only the world’s most elite athletes compete.” However, this image is hard to reconcile with a men’s slalom field selected based on a single score at one of two amateur tournaments held this month.

In men’s slalom, only four of the top 10 finishers on the 2023 Waterski Pro Tour standings qualified for the 2024 Masters. The rest of the field, while undoubtedly talented, placed 11th, 13th, 14th, and 19th last year. Collectively, they have finished on two professional slalom podiums in the last 12 months, both courtesy of Joel Poland, and have placed in the top eight at less than half of the events they’ve entered.

Meanwhile, four men who placed in the top seven on the Waterski Pro Tour last year were not invited to the Masters. Between them, they have 11 professional slalom podiums in the last 12 months, including one victory, and have finished in the top eight at over 75% of the events they’ve entered.

In the current competitive landscape, we see logjams at 3@10.25m almost every weekend. The skier who makes it past three on any given weekend is a lottery, but over a long enough period, the cream rises to the top.

That’s why a season-long measure of consistency and performance is the most accurate way to determine the best athlete in water skiing. The Waterski Pro Tour offers this, with 12 professional slalom events in 2023. Who could argue that their year-end standings aren’t a fair reflection of the current elite?

This isn’t to take away from those who did qualify through the two ‘LCQ’ events; they had to beat the best in the world to earn their spots and at times battled challenging conditions to do so. However, it’s tough to say the current qualification criteria is truly “an acknowledgment of achievement for reaching the pinnacle in a given watersports discipline,” claims from the Masters website notwithstanding.

Qualified Men

Freddie Winter1st at Worlds, Moomba, & Botas ProAm
Nate Smith1st at Masters & CA ProAm
Charlie Ross5@10.25 (LCQ #1)
Joel Poland4@10.25 (LCQ #1) – Runoff
Will Asher4@10.25 (LCQ #1) – Runoff
Cole McCormick4@10.25 (LCQ #2)
Stephen Neveu4@10.25 (LCQ #2)
Adam Sedlmajer3@10.25 (LCQ #2) – Runoff

Qualified Women

Jaimee Bull1st at Worlds & Botas ProAm
Regina Jaquess1st at Masters, Moomba, & CA ProAm
Whitney McClintock Rini1@10.25 (LCQ #1)
Allie Nicholson4.5@10.75 (LCQ #1)
Neilly Ross2@10.75 (LCQ #1) – Runoff
Venessa Vieke3@10.75 (LCQ #2)
Paige Rini2@10.75 (LCQ #2)
Luisa Jaramillio2@10.75 (LCQ #2)
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